“Oh my god…what is my life?”, Gauff stuns Osaka to reach Australian Open R16

leye aduloju /

American teenager, Coco Gauff avenged her US Open defeat to Naomi Osaka with a 6-3 6-4 victory over the Japanese to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday night.

Gauff had fallen to a heavy 6-3 6-0 defeat to Osaka at Flushing Meadows in September, but the teen sensation turned the tables spectacularly on Friday, taking down the defending champion to reach the second week for a Slam for the second time in her career.

The 15-year-old had also made the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, and she becomes the first player since Martina in 1995-1996 to reach a Grand Slam Round of 16 on multiple occasions before her 16th birthday.

“Oh my god, I don’t even know (where that performance came from) … honestly like, what is my life?” Gauff said on court.

“Two years ago, I lost first round in juniors. And now I’m here. This is crazy. Oh my gosh, I’m on Rod Laver Arena, like, I can’t believe this.”

It’s another chapter in the remarkable rise of the young American, who jumped over 600 ranking spots to break into the top 100 last season. She began 2019 at 686th, but finished at No. 68 following a season when she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, the third round at the US Open, and claimed her maiden career title in Linz.

Making her Australian Open debut this year, Gauff had already scored two big wins in Melbourne, beating seven-time major winner, Venus Williams in the opening round, and former top-20 star, Sorana Cirstea in the second, but she made her biggest statement yet with Friday’s victory over Osaka.

Gauff’s serve laid the foundation for the win over Osaka- she served at 75% for the match, and won 76% of points behind her first serve- while her superb athleticism defence troubled Osaka all night. The young gun was broken just once and offered just two break points in the entire match. She hit six winners and 17 unforced errors; but Osaka fared a lot worse in the error count, donating 30 to Gauff’s cause.

The Osaka backhand was particularly errant, as she consistently missed her mark with that shot at critical moments of the match.

“You don’t want to lose to a 15-year-old, you know”, said a disappointed Osaka. “But I guess that’s for me, like, a reality check. It doesn’t really matter the age of the opponent. Of course she deserves to be here. She played her matches. I just have to work harder”.

“I love her, but I don’t like this feeling of losing to her.”

The 2019 champion sent three consecutive backhands into the net to concede the first break of the match at 3-4, and that wing went amiss again in the next game as Gauff closed out the set to love. The American tightened her grip on the match with a break of serve in the opening game of the second set, but for the first time in the match, she appeared to lose her composure, offering two double faults in the next game en route giving back the break.

The next four games passed without any manor incident, but Osaka’s backhand faltered again in the seventh game, offering a string of errors to allow Gauff get what would be the decisive break of the match. The teenager controlled the match from there, sending down consecutive love holds to complete a massive victory.

“Definitely (this victory) has to be somewhere around the top. I thought I played really well today and I was pretty composed and really calm”.

“(This time I was ready for) the pace of her ball. She definitely plays faster than most players. I think at US Open I wasn’t really prepared for that. And today I definitely showed that I worked on that in the off-season.”

Next up for Gauff is a fourth-round date with compatriot, Sofia Kenin, who defeated China’s Shuai Zhang to reach the last 16 in Melbourne for the first time.